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Here’s how the Royals and Chiefs can get it right on the next stadium subsidies vote | Opinion

The votes are in, and have been counted. All sides have retreated to their corners, some bitter, others ecstatic. The stadiums question, which has sucked the air from the community for months, has been settled, at least for now.

For some, the issue has been settled forever. Probably 40% of local voters oppose any taxpayer subsidies for sports facilities, for any reason, at any time. That’s a legitimate and defensible position.

This column isn’t for them. Nothing I can say, or anyone else can say, will convince some people that sports teams are community assets and deserve some sort of community support. They’ll always vote no. Fine.

Others, though, may still be willing to consider alternatives that are more carefully tailored to meet the community’s interests — which include a low tax burden, more widely shared, and benefits for everyone, not just sports fans.

Perhaps both teams are still willing to listen.

I think such a path is still available. But it will take an effort by all sides to think more broadly about how this issue might be addressed, and an acceptance of new paradigms for old problems.

Here’s an outline. As always, details matter — statutes may have to change, and mechanisms addressed. But in broad strokes there are answers for the clubs and politicians.

Let’s start with the Royals, and downtown-area baseball.

End the relationship with Jackson County, and negotiate directly with the city.

The Royals have blamed Jackson County Executive Frank White’s intransigence for the failure to conclude stadium negotiations more quickly and openly. The team may or may not be right, but the workaround is clear: Stop negotiating with White, or the county, and open talks with City Hall.

The team’s relationship with the county is an accident of history, and not fundamentally required. Kansas City, on the other hand, has a direct interest in its downtown, and how a stadium might work in its center.

A citywide 3/16-cent sales tax for 40 years would likely raise half the funds for a $1 billion stadium. The Royals should promise to match that spending, dollar for dollar. State contributions can be counted. Special concession sales taxes can be collected.

Northlanders might complain. But a downtown stadium would be more convenient for them — and a bond issue might include spending for Northland sports amenities as well.

Current leases could be a sticking point. In a worst case, the Royals might have to delay a move downtown until 2031.

Let the people pick the site.

The Royals want a downtown stadium. But they bobbled the exact location, angering business owners and neighborhood leaders.

Why should the team pick the site? Let City Hall appoint a group to study access, land availability, cost, parking, disruption and other issues. Hold public hearings. Then let the public, through their elected representatives, choose the precise downtown location.

Sites could include the East Village, 18th and Vine, the West Side near the Loews hotel or somewhere else. The city could select a location by the end of 2024. It should include a broad, public community benefits agreement.

Make the city a partner in the team’s success.

David Glass purchased the Royals for $96 million in 2000. Nearly 20 years later, he sold it for around $1 billion. Even accounting for operating losses, that’s a pretty good profit.

Let John Sherman share that money. The Royals should agree to split the net profits of any future sale, minus operating losses, with the city. The city could use the money to pay off stadium bonds early, or for any important public purpose: transportation, health, education or anything else.

It could be hundreds of millions of dollars for public use. It would establish a true partnership between the community and the team. And there’s a precedent: Ewing Kauffman gave his sale profits to charity.

Now, the Chiefs.

Negotiate with Jackson County.

White has already proposed a Chiefs-only election. A separate Jackson County 3/16-cent sales tax would cut the levy in half in the eastern part of the county. Combining that with the city’s own 3/16-cent tax would make for a 3/8-cent rate inside Jackson County-Kansas City limits — but the city would remain the physical home of both teams.

The Chiefs could be much more clear about their Arrowhead renovation plans, and explain what it wants to do after its lease is up in 25 years.

Sharing revenue after a sale is less possible here. The Hunts will likely never sell the club.

Explore the Kansas option.

Missouri fans may not want to hear this, but a Kansas location would likely be as convenient as the Truman Sports Complex. It would also indirectly establish a true bistate approach to stadium construction and maintenance, which the community desperately needs.

Local tax support may be required.

That’s it: a rough framework to keep both clubs here, with lower and broader tax support and widely-spread community benefits. In a perfect world, these options would have been considered in public five years ago, but the world isn’t perfect, and they were not.

There is still time. Once everyone gets a chance to relax, and think, it’s time to go to work again.

Dave Helling is a former Kansas City Star reporter, columnist and editorial board member.